Olympic women’s basketball qualifiers set to begin around the world

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. and France have already qualified for the Paris Olympics this summer in women’s basketball. The 10 other spots are up for grabs this week in four qualifying tournaments that are spread throughout the world.

Belgium, China, Hungary and Brazil will each host four teams in a round-robin style format that begins Thursday. The top three teams in Brazil and Hungary will advance to the Olympics this summer.

In Belgium and China, the top two teams other then France and the U.S. will qualify for the Games as well.

The Americans sent a WNBA filled roster to the tournament in Belgium, where they will play the host nation on Thursday and then Senegal and Nigeria in the other two contests this weekend. The U.S. team is missing Olympians A’ja Wilson, Brittney Griner and Chelsea Gray, who all have a very strong shot to be on the team in Paris.

While the U.S. is using a bunch of pros on its roster, the teams playing in Brazil have a few college players on them. South Carolina star Kamilla Cardoso is missing the No. 1 Gamecocks next two games to compete with the Brazilian team. UCLA forward Lina Sontag is playing with the German team and Angela Dugalic with the Serbian squad.

Washington State’s Charlisse Leger-Walker was set to play for New Zealand as well before she tore her right ACL late last month.

Here are a few other things to look for in the qualifying tournaments:

AFRICAN ENTRANT

Nigeria will play Senegal on the opening night in Belgium and the winner most likely will be the Olympic representative for the continent. African teams have struggled at the Olympics since first participating in 1996, winning just once in the 2004 Games. Nigeria beat South Korea in that contest.

Nigeria did have a major breakthrough at the 2018 World Cup, making the quarterfinals before falling to the U.S. It was the first time that any African country had reached the quarterfinals.

TURN BACK TIME

Lauren Jackson’s international basketball career with the Australian national team will have at least one more chapter to it. The 42-year-old three-time WNBA MVP, who has won four Olympic medals with Australia, is part of the Opals team that will play in Brazil.

Jackson capped off an incredible comeback at the World Cup in 2022, helping the host nation win a bronze medal. She scored 30 points in that game to help Australia rout Canada 95-65. She had retired from playing in 2016 after knee injuries derailed her career, missing the Rio Olympics. She slowly returned, playing in a domestic Australian league the last few years.

FIRST APPEARANCE

Germany, which is led by the Sabally sisters, Satou and Nyara, is trying to earn its first trip to the Olympics. It would be an extra boost for the country that is hosting the 2026 World Cup.

Former Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis took over the German team in April that is playing in Brazil with Australia and Serbia.

TIP-INS

Canada guard Kia Nurse said on a conference call that she would miss the tournament because of a minor injury. … With France already having a berth in the Olympics locked up and China hosting the qualifying tournament it is most likely going to be the winner of the game between Puerto Rico and New Zealand that gets the other bid from that area.

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